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Learning How To Start

How would you order the following to get task or activity underway: action, inspiration, and motivation? In most cases when I have posed this question, the responses have been one of the following:

  • Inspiration, motivation, action

  • Motivation, inspiration, action

  • Motivation, action, inspiration

It becomes evident that we are often waiting for a spark to ignite our action and that feeling is a powerful motivator to this process. There have been a range of instances where I have observed this both in teenagers and adults that I have worked with. Essentially, time is dedicated to finding the starting point through the intent of a feeling to guide the process. This seems to be more common to creative tasks however does extend into others areas of necessity as well. Before we dive in any further, I'm going to do my big reveal early and suggest that action is more often than not going to be the first step. I'm not here to convince you, more simply to assist you to understand what it is that sets the wheels in motion for you. This is a discussion that goes back through history and continues to be discussed and debated to this day.

Imagine a composer, ready to create a masterpiece but just needs to find some inspiration. They listen to others works for ideas, examining the different parts and considering what appeals to them. Now they have a starting point, they begin the composition process only to find the motifs and melodies don't quite match up to the source of inspiration. A comparative process is introduced early in this, determining that it is best to discard these ideas and opt to start again. More music is sought, more time is spent searching for inspiration but it is proving few and far between. After struggling to find the opening inspiration, the time has wasted away and the motivation has dwindled. There is little, virtually nothing to show for the efforts. Why didn't this work?

Let's ask some questions such as "what is inspiration?" and "how easily can we track it down or how elusive is it when we truly try to grasp this?" Particularly in a creative task, we are looking for the initial flicker that sets us on our way yet it is very difficult to summon on the spot. Motivation can prove just as fickle, coming and going on a daily, if not hourly basis. Some days it is there, some days you wonder why you ever embarked on this particular endeavour. Yet, when these are working in your favour they have a powerful effect. There can be moments where time disappears at a rate of knots as you enter a state of flow, inspired and motivated with an effortless engagement into your task. We know this well, which is why I suspect we value them so highly. The great thing about these is that they have the ability to overflow into other areas of our lives, other activities and interactions that we have. When we are inspired, this drives us in a way that is hard to match. Yet, it often comes only after we have made progress. This is where action raises its hand in anticipation.

Out of the three, action is the one variable we do have control over. Action is a decision based on the options that we present to ourselves. It allows progression, and it allows us to discover how involving ourselves in activity provides the opportunities for inspiration and motivation. We can have action without motivation, and we can have action without inspiration. We can also have inspiration and motivation without action that leads to an interesting place, and one that we might find ourselves in a number of times. What does happen when inspiration and motivation strike but we are unable to take the required action to do something with this? Another of life's challenges for us to navigate. The question now is, what does this actually mean for us?

Learning how to start is not simply the beginning of a new project, it's every time that we come back this project to further our progress in it. Even if we have been inspired from the first moment, if there wasn't a point of completion then there is a point that we need to return and "restart". There have been a number of times where I have been incredibly passionate and invested in a project only to have a break and find that the initial motivation and inspiration are not as prominent as they once were. Therefore, the only option is to take action. Learning how to start is a simple idea that we often overlook because we have a misconception of the process. Even if you were aware of the action->inspiration->motivation (AIM) framework, then you will also now need to consider that this cycle needs to be consistently restarted. The argument is not that one is more important than the other, it is the acknowledgement instead that a repetition of the actions allows us to better optimise our time with the inspiration and motivation when it arrives.

Back to our composer example. A composer has a set of strategies for engaging new ideas, spending time at their instrument to actively work with these and see how these develop. As each idea builds into the next, there is an inkling of progress that takes place. Further to this, the composer notes a moment of inspiration where a particular melody transforms into a more developed idea, one that now carries a story and sense of direction. With this direction comes the emotion that is contained within the melody, and ever so gracefully it extends into a movement that provides the emphasis for the piece to be realised. The motivation is well and truely set now, however the composers time has come to an end for this session. The composer recognises the progress that has been made, leaving with the melody well and truely circling around and around in their mind. Today the composer has started, and tomorrow they will start again. Learning how to start allows the composer to come back day after day, knowing that in time inspiration and motivation will come to visit again, and that they will be in a position to welcome and embrace them.

For you, consider what it is that you are passionate about that never seems to quite come to fruition. And I leave you with this, have you spent time to learn how to start?


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